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Photograph: Courtesy Stan LeeBar Next Door

The 21 best cocktail bars in L.A.

Cocktails can be found just about anywhere in L.A., but these spots are taking their concoctions to new heights by serving up some of the best around.

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Year-round, L.A.’s cocktail bars not only offer some of the best ambiance in the city—they’re also home to some of the best tipples in the world. From bespoke libations made with farmers’ market-fresh ingredients to the revival of classic cocktails like espresso martinis and old fashioneds, cocktail bars in L.A. are mixing up undeniably phenomenal drinks. Whether you’re looking for a drink in Culver City, Downtown, Highland Park or Santa Monica, there are spots to imbibe all across town. Check out our list of the best places to grab a cocktail in L.A. right now from Eastside to Westside, and all the pockets of town in between.

RECOMMENDED: The best bars in L.A.

L.A.’s best cocktail bars

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Echo Park
  • price 1 of 4

Southern charm and Park’s Finest BBQ collide at Thunderbolt, a neighborhood cocktail bar that’s big on hospitality and Southern-leaning bites—but just because Thunderbolt is into Georgia peaches and BBQ, that doesn’t mean this Historic Filipinotown bar is only about juleps. The cocktails here are inventive, joyful and balanced, and always changing. We especially love the bar’s playful concoctions, such as the clarified take on a piña colada (Tropipop), or the rotating selection of carbonated cocktails, and we’re all about Thunderbolt’s homage to the neighborhood: the P-Town Boxing Club, made with pandan and coconut-washed rye.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

This so-stylish-it-hurts apothecary-themed bar is the sibling to New York City’s, which racked up acclaim through detail-driven, botanical-toned drinks in a dimly-lit setting. Here in Chinatown, the vibe, atmosphere and menu are all similar, with a few unique concoctions based on the region’s weather and whatever’s in season. True to the apothecary theme, cocktails are paired off into cures for what ails ya: stress relievers, stimulants, pain killers, euphorics and more, and they might include produce, tinctures or bitters such as cantaloupe, bee pollen, bell pepper, sage, coconut charcoal, or a honeyed chamomile cordial.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Los Feliz
  • price 2 of 4

This charming spot is the Los Feliz equivalent of Cheers, where everybody knows your name, but it gets even better: This repurposed Craftsman home also sports a café, a bakery and one of the best patios in the city. The bar team whips up house-made syrups, oft-rotating concoctions and one of the most cheeky, fun-loving menus in L.A. This spring, Big Bar's all-star bartending team has rolled out an all-new spring and summer cocktail menu with creations like the Baby Got 'Gnac—a deceptive orange-wine looking drink made with cognac, brandy, champagne and kumquat shrub that "tastes like an orange dream."

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • La Cienega
  • price 2 of 4

You see it on the coasters, you see it atop the foam on your drink: "YES." It’s the unofficial ethos of Jared Meisler and Sean MacPherson's high-minded cocktail bar, where it's best to just go with the flow because everything off that order-by-the-spirit menu is going to be good. But first, you have to find it: Look for the neon "PSYCHIC" sign on La Cienega, then enter through a curtain to find a handful of seasonal cocktails in addition to classics-leaning drinks split into categories of sparkling, rum, tequila, whiskey, gin, vodka and even absinthe. The place fills up fast, so stop by early or late. The lights are low and the drinks are spot-on, making it a perfect place to bring a date—or go solo and bring yourself on one.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Hollywood
  • price 3 of 4

It’s easy to get caught up in the mayhem of Hollywood Boulevard, but if you head toward the glowing red neon above it all, you'll enter an Old Hollywood hideaway, the charming Roosevelt Hotel. Within the hotel is the Spare Room, the hotel's destination-worthy cocktail bar. The bar may seem small, but it is deeper than meets the eye with couches lining the two bowling lanes (that are available for advanced booking). The team here work magic into flamboyant tiki-leaning concoctions and understated classics alike; unwavering since its 2011 launch, the Spare Room has undeniably become one of the top bars of the city—or anywhere, really.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Fairfax District
  • price 2 of 4

The mystique of prohibition lives on at Melrose Umbrella Co., a dark and pedigreed saloon that feels like a reprieve from modern-day Melrose Avenue. Step inside and, quite suddenly, it’s 1933: Immaculately attired staff shake up some of the best drinks in town from a list that’s got a little something for everyone. The menu is broken into four sections: “spirit-forward and complex,” “citrus-based and refreshing,” “tiki style,” and “tried and true.” These include strong, sophisticated, shrewdly balanced, fun, surprising and even classic flavor profiles, and while they’re not all Prohibition-inspired drinks, there’s no better atmosphere to raise a glass to the end of Prohibition.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

You enter beneath the neon sign hanging over the door—it just reads "BAR," you can’t miss it—and the second you're in, you'll probably agree with the second neon you see: "My, that's better." Stepping into Everson Royce Bar is like heaving a sigh of relief, a boozy boon to the Arts District that feels part elegant cocktail den, part raucous patio party. No matter which experience you choose (based on where you choose to sit), you’ll be ordering some of L.A.'s best cocktails. They come inspired by Los Angeles and seasonal produce—we recommend the long-time favorite Yo LA Tengo, which comes packed with mezcal, grapefruit, Aperol, ginger and lime, or the You'll Rhubarb the Day, which involves, you guessed it, rhubarb—and the food follows suit. Don's skip the bar bites, which include some of the most flaky biscuits and one of the best burgers in town.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

The chances of you, a mere mortal, walking into this underground Arts District cocktail bar without a reservation are slim to none, but the L.A. outpost of this famous New York cocktail bar still has some of the best (and most expensive!) drinks in the city. Flavor profiles and vibes divide the menu under labels like such "light and playful" and "boozy and honest." The majority of drinks run in the $24 to $26 range—the sky-high prices you’ll have to pay for time-tested techniques and a vast array of unique, hard-to-find spirits. At the separate Standing Room concept, which does take walk-ins, you'll find slightly cheaper, just-as-excellent drinks. In both spaces, a slightly damp, "old building" smell hangs in the air, and anyone who's closed their tab at Death & Co proper will definitely feel pressured by staff to leave.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Beverly Hills
  • price 3 of 4

This award-winning New York City aperitivo bar now has a red-hot rooftop restaurant at the Maybourne—and while the coastal Italian cuisine is hit-or-miss, the expertly made drinks, ritzy ambience and a ninth-floor vantage point have already made Dante a worthwhile destination for cocktail lovers. While Dante’s primetime reservations tend to book out weeks in advance (reservations are released on Resy on a 30-day rolling basis at 8am), it’s usually not too difficult to grab a seat at the restaurant’s indoor bar, where you can also grab $10 martinis daily from 3 to 5pm.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Koreatown
  • price 3 of 4

This dark and sexy backroom nestled inside the Hotel Normandie is a "damn fine" place to grab a drink or two—and your best option in Koreatown for a focused, well-made cocktail. Rather than go the mixology route, the Normandie Club breathes new life into classics. Think a coconut-almond Old Fashioned and a tequila Rickey, plus a few house originals and margaritas on draft. Bespoke tipplers can ditch the menu altogether and order a concoction tailored to personal preferences. Low lighting, intimate leather booths and an intimate alleyway give this bar a New York City sensibility right in the heart of Los Angeles. Stop by during happy hour (6–8pm) for discounted $12 cocktails, or come by later in the evening when the DJs start to spin for a more high-energy vibe.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

Employees Only first made waves in New York City, but its WeHo location has become a full-blown upscale neighborhood spot and citywide cocktail destination. The Prohibition-inspired bar's artful cocktails pair beautifully with its extended dinner menu. Early birds can enjoy the more moderately priced Golden Hour menu, where cheaper cocktails and bar bites reign between 6 and 8pm. By mid-evening, the bar’s moody Art Deco ambience is full-throttle in its (largely reservation-only) dining room and walk-in bar. Look closely to spot the entrance to the hidden Henry's Room, a speakeasy accessed through a back wall. It's all fun, sleek and exactly the kind of low-lit space you can lose hours in.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 3 of 4

Whether or not you believe Cole’s invented the French dip sandwich, we can all agree that it’s got a leg up on Philippe’s when it comes to drinks. That probably has something to do with a big Cole’s revamp by Pouring with Heart (formerly 213 Hospitality), and it’s got a lot to do with the speakeasy that the hospitality group built in the back: The Varnish isn’t just a cornerstone of L.A.’s secret bars, it ushered in their era (though Cole's also served food and drink during another era, Prohibition). One of the first modern speakeasies in the city, the Varnish trained some of the top bartenders in town and kept crowds streaming to the entrance at the back of the restaurant. The historic building still sports tile flooring and warm wood booths, and in the hidden bar, live jazz and classic cocktails to match the vintage vibes. Of course you can’t go wrong with a bartender’s-choice drink, or getting there early—the place always fills up as the evening wears on.

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Studio City
  • price 2 of 4

This buzzy Studio City dive bar is livening up the Valley’s drinking scene with an eclectic, ever-changing menu of strong cocktails served until midnight. Housed in a former oyster bar (hence the name), this no-reservation spot fills up early with patrons hungering for self-taught chef Jeff Strauss’s matzo ball ramen and smoked salmon onigiri. Though we personally felt the fusion fare here left something to be desired, spirit-forward cocktails like the Deep Cut (gin, sweet vermouth, mint, strawberry and lemon) and the Family Affair (tequila, rum, pomegranate and tamarind) make Oy Bar a worthwhile SFV destination for a stiff drink with a side of chaos cuisine.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

Located in the old office of Marilyn Monroe’s talent agent, this tiny craft cocktail bar on the Sunset Strip serves impeccably crafted drinks named for nearby L.A. icons. There’s a clarified paloma rosé spritz inspired by the Beverly Hills Hotel and a pisco and passion fruit ode to the Viper Room—and given the good-for-the-area prices ($18–22 for house specialties, $16 for classics), it’s no surprise Bar Next Door fills up nightly with drinkers enjoying the vintage reel-to-reel sound system and neighborhood watering hole atmosphere. Arrive early to claim a booth for you and a friend, or come later on to watch the youngish see-and-be-seen crowd collide with locals of all ages ending their night with a well-made nightcap

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  • Bars
  • Mezcalerias
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 2 of 4

If you like tequila, then you’ll love Las Perlas, a fun, colorful bar in Downtown (and West Hollywood) that’s serving one of the city’s most comprehensive selections of tequila and mezcal. This watering hole attracts more of the Varnish crowd than that of Cabo Cantina. While you can always play it safe and order a margarita, we encourage starting your South of the Border evening with the creative cocktails. It can be sleepy early during the week, so stop in on weekend nights when tequila lovers, from locals to cocktail geeks, pack in—especially for live DJ sets, which always lead to tequila-fueled dancing.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Highland Park
  • price 2 of 4

Curious imbibers can always find this drinkery inside a converted garage behind Cafe Birdie. Stop right there if you think this is a speakeasy; instead, the twinkle-lit courtyard and homey interior combo conveys a downright neighborly feel. That’s not to say there isn’t an air of mystique about the place: Good Housekeeping is dimly lit and exceedingly cool, with vinyl records spinning and options that include biodynamic wines, nonalcoholic concoctions, and some ever-intriguing cocktails. Options like the Wake and Bake put the team’s talent on display with ingredients such as a syrup made from spiced Christmas tea, and the Andy’s Wild Thyme lets them play with their food, infusing vodka with rosemary and thyme. Be sure to hang around the bar past 10pm, when you can get pizza by the slice from sibling spot Cafe Birdie.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Mar Vista
  • price 2 of 4

Take equal parts Mar Vista neighborhood bar, Taiwanese soul food and a cocktail menu that somehow makes even the most de rigueur drinks exciting, and you’ve got a Westside gem that’s also one of the city’s best. Whether you're opting for their more recent cocktails to-go or taking a seat at that L-shaped bar, the vibe is unpretentious, and the cocktails are unadulterated fun: Pan-Asian ingredients sneak their way into the fundamentals and colorful, eccentric concoctions alike—who else is giving you a Thai-inspired take on an Old-Fashioned? 

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Los Feliz
  • price 1 of 4

This unassuming bar may be hard to find from the street, but once you encounter it, you’ll find yourself heading down this narrow brick-lined alley every time you have a cocktail craving in Los Feliz. Pinky’s makes a point of serving classic cocktails with a unique twist, like with the addition of fennel in an espresso martini or yuzu in their take on a tequila sour. Plus, if you get a little too much liquor in you and need something to help you sober up (or make room for more), the bartenders will be happy to serve you some simple tacos until closing. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Highland Park
  • price 1 of 4

This vinyl-only bar settled in the middle of one of Highland Park’s most-bustling blocks offers a reprieve from the college-student-studded drinking holes known to the area. While the space has over 8,000 records from the personal collection of co-owner Peanut Butter Wolf (of Stones Throw Records), the same eclectic attention to detail is applied behind the bar. Whiskey sodas and sake flow with ease on draft, while ingredients like pineapple, lemon, and Aperol are shaken into cocktails like the Goldliner, which features Madre mezcal. All in all, Goldline is a one-stop shop for a drink worth driving east for.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Culver City
  • price 3 of 4

For most, the phrase “old man bar” conjures a specific image of worn upholstery, bowls of peanuts on a laminate bar top and crotchety curmudgeons downing cheap, no-nonsense drinks—but this isn't the sort of Old Man Bar you’ll find behind Culver City's Hatchet Hall. Instead, this intimate space with an ornate fireplace, etched antique lamps and candles speaks to the grandfather in all of us itching for a glass of dark-hued liquor and a luxurious armchair. The taxidermy and black-and-white portraits might lean towards macabre, but the deliciously strong drinks and list of rare, often pricey whiskeys make this Westside bar a worthwhile destination on colder evenings.

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